readjustment bureau

OFWs in a hurry to leave the airport to meet Nanay, Tatay, Junior, Ate, Bunso, and most of all Mahal :)

OFWs in a hurry to leave the airport to meet Nanay, Tatay, Junior, Ate, Bunso, and most of all Mahal ūüôā

[ belated happy birthday to classmate and friend Allan Refuerzo, Imee Sy and Rory Reyes! ]

ADJUSTMENT IS a well-worn, familiar route on the migrant GPS.  All kinds of adjustment occupy the migrant mind : adjustment to climate, adjustment to ways of doing things, and adjustment to language are just some of the constants we live with as settlers on foreign lands.  You might survive without swift adjustment, but embracing it will make your life a whole lot easier.

You’re able to get along with more locals faster, you’re understood more readily, you don’t stand out or attract too much unwanted attention, you discover faster ways of doing things, and ultimately you get more things done. ¬†You reach short-term goals faster, which helps you get to long-term goals faster.

What doesn’t always get mentioned in the migrant, balikbayan or OFW discussion, a lot of which certainly gets heard both at home and abroad, is the adjustment the Pinoy makes or has to make whenever he/she (for brevity, he na lang) returns home, either for vacation or for good. ¬†Part of the law of the universe states that what goes up must comes down, for every action is an opposite reaction, and balancing the positive force is, necessarily, the negative counterpart.

It’s not as difficult as returning toothpaste to the proverbial tube, reversing the downflow of a river or stream (it’s impossible, actually) or unmaking a hurtful comment, but it’s somewhere ¬†in the neighborhood. ¬†Even though you seek to undo a lifetime of habits, ¬†beliefs and culture, it’s doable because you have no other choice (you’re already overseas), economics coerce you to (you have a family to feed) and pride is a great, awesome motivator (you can’t go home and face everyone who’s never stopped encouraging you, as well as those who can’t wait to see you fall flat on your face).

But is it as practical to unlearn your new accent, start driving on the right side of the road again, pick up typical Pinoy ways of doing things like chismis, kaplastikan and sipsipan and socialize with all sorts of people like you never left home?

[ Please don’t misunderstand. ¬†The shadier side of being Pinoy is done just as often in my temporary adopted land, by both the locals and Pinoys like me. ¬†It’s just that well, it is so acceptable and traditional the way we do it back home, and people where I am still pretend ¬†they don’t do it as well, or at least don’t mention it in polite conversation. ¬†I’m not being a hypocrite, or at least I hope I don’t sound like one. ¬†ūüėČ ]

But back to readjustment.  My last trip home, I probably had the hardest time to adjust, because I was coming from very cold weather, had very little time to prepare for a homecoming (there was a death in the family), and I was coming home to the hottest weather in the Philippines, April-May scorchers.

I think I mentioned in a previous blog that (1) just standing in place made me sweat buckets, and (2) the heat waves were coming from both the atmosphere and the white-hot concrete, how could I cope?  Additionally the humidity and muggy air were not helping any; I could almost slice the air with a knife, and I could likewise imagine the insides of my nostrils sweating from the hot, hot air. The immediate and obvious question is, without the aid of an air-conditioner or an unexpected shower, how do you adjust to hot weather after half a decade away?

The short answer is you don’t, not unless you have the time, patience and forbearance to bear it and realize that everyone else is enduring this three-quarters of the year, why can’t you? ¬†Mind over matter, sensible dressing and knowing when to cool down are just a few ways to acclimatize (pun intended) yourself to the weather that’s been part of your DNA and that of your forbears.

a food court big enough to hold a movie premiere in. :)

a food court big enough to hold a movie premiere in. ūüôā

Another readjustment Mahal and I have found challenging is to get used to people eating out or planning to eat out at the drop of a pin. ¬†Because eating places are accessible and plentiful, public transport is universal and nearly 24/7 and Pinoys are naturally apt to get together and celebrate via lunch or dinner, it’s quite normal to just call or SMS the members of your barkada, posse or extended family and meet at the mall. ¬†Anything goes from there, but for sure you will select a place to share a meal and just watch the masses of Pinoy mallgoers like yourself pass you by.

We literally ate out every night our short stay back home, not just to meet friends and contemporaries but because it was the easiest and most convenient way to catch up with people that we had to meet by necessity.  Not only did we not have a proper meeting place, we needed to meet someplace halfway close to where all parties came from.  And no other place was more equidistant than a mall, and where in the mall was it more conducive to meet than a restaurant or fast food place?

And because we met for dinner just as often as we met for lunch, this brings us to another quirk we had to get used to all over again : our kabayan back at home stay up late as often as they want, and we seriously had an issue with this. In Wellington, almost every weekday we are tucked in by around 9.30 just to be able to get up by around 5.30, enjoy hearty breakfast, bike to work and report for duty by 7.00 am.

would you believe happy hour hasn't even started? :)

would you believe happy hour hasn’t even started? ūüôā

In contrast, nobody in Manila seems to be ready to call it a day until around midnight, everyone starts howling at the moon by around 7.30 pm, sits down for dinner after traffic and their favorite telenovela around 9.00 pm, finishes social obligations including Facebook and e-mails 11-ish, sips barako coffee and enjoys late night news half past, and finally catch zzzz’s at the stroke of 12.

If this sounds familiar to you, so many people we’ve met do this regularly, which was why they didn’t think twice about meeting us at ungodly hours of the night. Just to be able to readjust to these three areas made our recent visit more interesting, and although life would’ve been easier without the readjustment, we would not exchange it for anything else. ¬†As the Chinese proverb goes, may you live in interesting times. ¬†And living it adjusting, readjusting, and readjusting yet again.

Thanks for reading!

our accent marks us as migrants but also affirms our sense of self

versatilebloggeraward11[ Note : A little more opinionated, a little more candid, and a little less diplomatic this fair day for blogging.  Just spewing extemporaneous thoughts with little regard for the consequences, spoiler alert : the text suffers from ADHD and is incontrovertibly scatterbrained. Thanks for your time! ]

IN MY ultra-simplistic zero-sum yin-or-yang world, that recent royal-morning-sickness- aussie-DJ-prank tragedy can be ultimately reduced into : greed for information on one hand, and a sad lack of accent awareness, on the other.

Behind the naughty anything-for-a-laugh antics of those DJs who successfully attempted to access the Duchess of Canterbury’s sick ward, the whole world was waiting for news, any news about either the newest heir to the world’s most popular monarchy (rulers of the United Kingdoms of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the Crown Dependencies and the remnants of the British Empire, on which the sun supposedly never set) or the Duchess’s early-pregnancy discomfort . ¬†Preferably, news of the former, but the latter would do anytime.

Straining credulity on the other side is the willingness of someone tending to an ultra privacy-sensitive patient to believe that her grandmother would make a personal call, identifying herself without the layers and layers of protocol expected , and lastly sound the way she sounded, more like an audio caricature of herself (“this is the Queen, you know!”).

Yes, the DJs involved were trying to nail a stunt, pull a fast one on stressed, distracted health workers, but they were also shooting for the moon, outscoop everyone in merry old England from Way Down Under, and squeeze from the proverbial stone golden driblets of information and enhance their dubious status as semi-media outlets in the sea of TV, radio and print pseudo-journalists.

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But the story would not be complete without a naive, albeit efficient medical worker quietly doing her job, day in and day out, but completely unaware of what a British national, much less a reigning monarch would sound.

Would you believe that if I was a 48-hour a week rotating shift worker (regularly alternating from days to nights), confining nearly all my professional and social contacts to people of my race, and spending almost all my free time with family, I would, despite living in a country completely alien to my culture for a decade, not know much about anything besides my native language and culture?  Of course you would.

Particularly among low-income migrant workers, Asians tend to be parochial in outlook and habit, keeping among themselves.  In enclaves of migrants all over North America, Europe and Australasia, everything that reminds them of home is preserved and affirmed, and language is certainly no exception.  Would it be a big surprise that migrants here retain the tongue and accent they have brought from their native lands?

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It would then not be a big leap to assume that, not being much aware of what one needs to know beyond work and necessities, the subtle differences of accent between various English speakers would just be so much detail that matters little in the grand scheme of things.

Despite having a brother who had been in New Zealand the last 15 years when I arrived in Auckland in 2007, I had almost no idea of what a Kiwi accent was like.  There were no stereotypes in media to which I could refer, unlike icons of Austrian accents (Ahnuld Tuhminaytuh), American accents (Al Pacino or Clint Eastwood), French accents (Inspector Clouseau or Gerard Depardieu) or British accents (James Bond and his various incarnations), although I knew that there was a passing resemblance between Kiwi and British brogues.

Not just vowels and intonation, but also common words that had added, modified or even completely different meanings.  flat for apartment, torch for flashlight, rubbish for garbage, tins for cans, jumpers for jackets, and so on.

More insanely, I had not only the Kiwi accent to contend with, but other migrant accents as well.  Indian accents, Chinese accents, even Korean and Vietnamese accents.  And if I thought that being of Chinese descent would help me, I was mistaken : the Northern Chinese and Cantonese accents were markedly different from the Fukienese (Fujianese) Chinese accent I was accustomed to at home.

The only way I was going to entrench myself as a migrant, in a babel of tongues and accents, was to expose myself and not be intimidated by the different ways people from myriad races express themselves.

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And if that meant exposing them to my Pinoy accent, inflection and idioms, so be it.

The very fact that Pinoy call centers and business process outsourcing is now one of the mighty powerhouses of the Filipino economy serves notice that, Pinoy accent and all, we are understood at the very least and appreciated by the English speakers of the world. ¬†It’s not so much that we have a way of speaking as the fact that we are understood by the way we speak. ¬†Because of and in spite of, take your pick.

[ distracting thought : If you ¬†talk the way you talk by the way, make yourself understood, and make your life easier, why make life hard and change your accent? ¬†I DO¬†concede though that a good part of our Filipino brothers and sisters speak with a very strong Pinoy accent, a little adjustment might be in order, but no biggie. ūüôā ]

Returning to the main kwento. ¬†Conclusion : If you limit interaction among the people you were born with, you will have minimal understanding of the various accents that surround you, despite their physical presence in your adopted world. ¬†Conversely, immerse yourself in the mixture of accents (and speakers) you hear around you and you will be conversant among strangers, friends with people you’ve never met before.

Even a passing awareness of how different races of people sound leads to better anticipation of what and how they are communicating, and ultimately to better understanding of these people, whether they are hosts or fellow migrants.

Consequently, we end up with a more profound appreciation of ourselves, as distinct yet interacting actors in the global village.

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It’s so sad that a life had to be wasted in that episode of the Duchess and her morning sickness leading to Aussie DJs and their prank call, but we can’t deny the resulting lesson that many of our daily problems between people all over the world might be solved with a little more understanding, a little less concern with privacy, and a little less deceit.

Regardless of the accent.

Thanks for reading !

surviving 2day’s Pinay Code of Kalantiaw, doublespeak & other cues

[ Note : This might someday save your life, in advance you’re very welcome.¬† ūüôā ]

THAT COOL, efficient-sounding word code enjoys in modern usage at least two common meanings.  The first as I have grown to understand it is a loose association of verbal and non-verbal words, phrases, symbols and signs that have an obvious meaning, but emit a second and less obvious, but oftentimes more useful meaning.  The second is a compilation of rules and regulations set by people in one group, for the rest in the group to follow.

As regards the relationship between men and women, that crazy word code in today’s rant might as well apply to both.

I happen to be a man, so whether I like it or not, 99.9% of my perspective is shaped by my Y chromosome.  We heterosexual men all love women and as such get along with them hunky-dory, OK, but ultimately everything goes swimmingly only as long as we follow their rules, right?  Secondly, because of the rituals of society and keeping appearances (or what Asians sometimes refer to as saving face), men often need to discern the meaning behind the meaning in a lot of what women say or do.

it’s because you did something wrong, and she’s wise to your ways bro

This truth of the universe occurred to me after the Kiwi cleaning lady I meet during afternoon shift remarked that one of the things Kiwi men¬†hated hearing from their spouses / girlfriends / partners (based on a survey) is the catchall phrase we need to talk.¬† It sounds innocuous enough, but it’s actually an all-embracing doublespeak for trouble is a-brewing, something very similar to a summons to the principal’s office, an unscheduled performance review, or a doctor asking for more tests or that you file¬†a lengthy medical¬†leave after your annual physical.¬† I immediately followed up on that remark, telling Kiwi Cleaning Lady that, for our culture at least, similar phrases and signals coming from women often¬†trigger the fight-or-flight, and tingling spider-sense response in hapless¬†male partners. ūüôā¬†And that’s how I surmised that this phenomenon of female doublespeak cuts a wide socio-economic swath across many cultures and races.

But I’m not going into the why, merely my empirical observations on such, and because we’re Pinoy, our expertise (at least for the next 15 mins) is our experience with Pinay doublespeak, and (when I feel like it) the rules of engagement for¬†hidden meanings¬†:

we have to talk Norbit, so shut up and listen ūüė¶

Mag-usap (nga) tayo.¬† The connecter nga is optional but it adds oomph to the imperative, very similar to adding punk at the end of any command-disguised-as-request¬†(as in, are you feeling lucky, punk?).¬† Literally, it sounds nearly identical to its English counterpart¬†we have to talk, but in reality it’s a bit more menacing to the addresee.¬† It often suggests that (1) you need to sit your sorry ass in my office for a good whupping, (2) you haven’t got your head on straight in the last 24 hours and it needs urgent¬†straightening, and (3) you are so busted,¬†you probably won’t see the welts subside until the ice thaws.¬† The problem with this statement is that it encompasses a wide range of time-space trouble, for stuff you might have failed to conceal three years ago, before your hair started thinning, to less than five minutes ago, before you walked in on the newly shampooed carpet in your garden shoes.¬† Now that is a surefire recipe for a lovely day.¬† Pardon my pessimism, but the odds of mag-usap tayo not becoming a one-sided tongue lashing is about as certain as you doing the nasty tonight, which is, optimistically, less than zero.

What to do : the basic response is to hang your head, make sympathetic, vaguely agreeable sounds (without conceding agreement) like uhm, uh-huh, and blink-and-purse your lips, wait for the anger to subside, then quietly disappear into the shadows.¬† Repeat procedure until she gets wise.¬† There are infinite¬†creative variations to this, newbies just go with the flow for now. ūüôā

don’t let her indifference fool you. ūüė¶

Bahala ka sa buhay mo.¬† Again, the literal connotation of this shrug-inducing utterance is so far-off from the actual meaning, distance-wise, that you might need Hubble’s Space Telescope to measure it.¬† It sounds like she doesn’t give a flying fig what you do about your supposed night out with the boys on her¬† poetry reading finale, but in actuality it will determine your physical and mental well-being for the rest of your natural life, only you’re not that aware of it for now.¬† Well, be afraid, bro.¬† Be very afraid.¬† Bahala ka sa buhay mo is the dead-sure way of women making their men know that they are not in control, bahala ka is hindi ka bahala, forewarned is forearmed.

What to do : This phrase has special reference to : time together (as in bahala ka sa gusto mong gawin), advice untaken (as in bahala ka kung ayaw mong makinig), warnings unheeded (as in bahala ka kung ayaw mong maniwala).  The phrase acquires more dread (to you) when it is accompanied by alternately arching eyebrows, strategic pouts and dismissive nods.  Repeat, I shall and will never underestimate Bahala ka sa buhay mo.  Good boy !

Ayokong makialam.¬† Again, this is code for her laser-sighting, infrared and subsonic monitors on you, and everything you will be doing from hereon.¬† Ayokong makialam is code for she already knows what you will do, feigns disinterest in how you decide, but in reality is obsessed with the outcome. Ever heard of pre-approved applications and actions?¬† Well, she has pre-disapproved whatever you are considering, because she has the benefit of hindsight and afterthought, and sadly for us men, she is usually correct.¬† Ayokong makialam often has that microdot-sized pero… (but) at the end to save you from your unwise decisions and so she can gloat and remind you of such for years and years to come.¬† In short, ayokong makialam actually means makinig ka na lang sa akin, huhuhu.

What to do : Please refer to Magusap (nga) tayo above.

Hulaan mo anong nalimutan mo?  Sorry to sound repetitive, but this is an all-purpose tool to grab your attention, generate instant guilt feelings from you, raise your  hackles and supersensitive antenna to, get ready, anything she wants and feels like at the moment. (underscoring mine, who else?)

guess which unimportant state you forgot to visit, dawg? jus’ mine?

This sounds unfair, but as regards women to men they are in a current relationship with, they are entitled to do this anytime they want, better that you get this in your head right now kapatid.  It is wired into their DNA, that it is their God-given, inalienable and historical right, to make you remember things you never knew, know things that are unknowable, feel womanly feelings or emotions (that men commonsensically cannot feel or emote), or discern womanly discernments (that men chromosomically cannot discern).

Men by nature wouldn’t remember birthdays, anniversaries and similar stuff if their lives depended on it, eschew thoughtfulness like the common cold, and get in touch with their emotions as often as the planets align, if not less.

Women take it upon themselves to correct these cosmic wrongs, and the generic phrase hulaan mo anong nalimutan mo is designed to elicit the familiar dread that an antelope senses when the lion starts charging, that Babe feels when his Master starts sharpening the knives, or when Missus starts bringing up those text messages on that simcard you thought you cleverly concealed in your billfold.¬† Hulaan mo… refers not only to dates and events but to documents, conversations, old flames (and even current ones), mistakes that you omitted to declare, and bad memories that no human should be forced to relive, but which you are numbingly being asked to recount at this very moment.¬† Hulaan mo anung nalimutan mo is not only excruciatingly cringe-inducing, but is a manifestation of her superior memory and application of that memory to current events, namely what she is to do with you.

What to do : Make a great show of exhaling deeply, feign complete surrender, show your best disarming smile, and the most important step : run for your life, don’t look back, and don’t stop running.

The sooner you master these non-verbal cues from The Love of Your Life, the better.  Vaya con Dios my son!

Thanks for reading !


PS.¬† Here’s a funny NZ ad on the perfect man:

Xcuz faulty memory, but we 4get b4 remembering

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[Note from Noel : from all the way below Down Under to near the Roof ¬†of the World, advance b-day greetings to a most charismatic leader in SJCS batch 82, excellent basketball varsitarian, and ¬†friend to all, Mr Andy Lim !¬† PS: If Mr Criss Angel’s skills as above shown are real, then he has no need for regular memory the way we folks do!]

UNLESS we’re trying to speed up an order at a takeaway or people above a certain age we encounter will be cheered up by even a few familiar sounding words from the motherland, we don’t even try to speak Chinese anymore, it’s simply too laborious now and we elicit too many snickers (not the sweet-and-nutty kind) nowadays.

Although we understand what is heard and spoken a good part of the time by Mainlanders (sometimes called Communist Chinese), Taiwanese and various Overseas Chinese from Southeast Asia, and we even get the general idea when we see headlines on either of the two Chinese community newspapers here, our much-vaunted first-rate Chinese language tuition is now a fainter-than-faint shadow of its high school self.

At various times I’ve been either encouraged and discouraged to butt in whenever I hear the language I learned from childhood to puberty, but mostly I get awkward looks and the impression that I sound like a person who just materialized out of a bad Sammo Hung movie.

Any lingering doubts I may have had about any illusions as a credible Chinese speaker came when I tried to engage esposa hermosa‘s (EH) colleague (from Shanghai) at the sushi bar where she works : Is there a great question mark in your stomach, comrade? ¬†I confidently asked her after a long shift.

She answered my embarrassingly silly question (I meant to ask if she was hungry) with two more questions : ¬†D’you know yo Mandarrrin is worse than my English, heeheehee and anyone told you that nobody uses “comrade” anymore, friend ? which made me blush ¬†harder than a crimson Chinese lantern. :”)

After work, EH asked me what the joke was all about, and when I answered there was none, she said there must have been, as her Chinese workmate and countrymen had a great laugh for quite a while.  That was the end of Chinese-speaking Noel.

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The sad, ironic part is like many extensive chunks of knowledge we acquire and then forget, the bytes and voluminous details are no longer there, but we are vaguely aware of the length, breadth, value and even beauty of the data we have lost. ¬†Stroke for stroke, word for word, and as idioms, syntax and proverbs go, Chinese is probably one of the most efficient (not to mention beautiful) languages in the world, but of course you can only take my word for it, as I am aware of only two other tongues. ¬†And I don’t know, after spending more than four years half an ocean away from home, how much Tagalog I’ll retain after a few more years.

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I find that whether because of preconditioned mental fatigue (brought about by its physical counterpart), preconditioned loss of focus, or just plain loss of interest, I can no longer finish watching a complete game of NBA basketball.  I still enjoy favorite players and teams, the drama of the playoffs, and seeing favorite crybabies topple over their unrealistic egoes and promises.  But to watch one-and-a-half hours of ten millionaires passing a ball around every 24 seconds before dumping it to their superstar for the requisite jump shot / lay-up / ho-hum slam dunk over an 82-game season no longer pumps adrenaline into my system as it did in my teens and 20s.

Worse of all, somewhere before halftime or even between one-fourth to one-third of the game, I have actually forgotten the combatant teams, who’s winning or even who’s playing superior basketball. ¬†Because the product itself hardly provides entertainment or even interest that it used to, it takes lots of energy to even update myself on constant changes like scores, lead changes and game time remaining.

Because interest and focus and memory reserves are all intertwined and interdependent, we realize that our minds need the equivalent of an external hard drive, otherwise we prioritize our pursuits and passions, into merely what we need to remember, for survival. ¬†At least, that’s what the empirical sum of my experience tells me.

It’s absolutely heretical to our culture of multi-tasking, multi-media markets and multi-media caressing our five senses, but if we can only focus on one song, or one article, or one website (for the most part) or one channel / program per second of our lives, where is the satiety point or satiety level before we scream that thousand-channel cable TV, ultra high speed internet, internet TV or 4G technology is more than we can handle?

If every bit of information is accessible and available at our fingertips, is anything worth remembering anymore?

Thanks for reading!


Pinoy Man vs Wild (in workingclass Wellington)

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Dear kabatch schoolmates brods kabayan Huttmates and friends :

WE GREW up with Tagalog English and a bit of Bicolano at home, and all these at school, plus some Fukienese with classmates, and stiff Mandarin to the teachers. So we have a bit of experience on what sometimes gets lost in translation and the nuances that fall between the cracks, dialect to dialect.

What we can’t comprehend is the same thing happening, getting signals crossed we mean, among English speakers who spout plain speech among themselves. Same basic nouns, verbs and adjectives, same rudimentary grammar, and same subject-predicate construction. Somewhere, the message gets lost, but we are supposed to use the same lingo. Que pasa Kuya Eddie ?

The key word here is basic, cuz while apple isn’t banana, dogs chase cats and boy goes with girl, everything else is subject to however a word, figure of speech or idiom is used. We found this out in the course of our workday adventures with mostly blue-collar tradesmen and factory lifers in working-class Wellington, not only demographically a world apart from our office-bound job descriptions in Manila but also less homogenously diverse, i.e. we are the only rank-and-file Asian in the exclusively male workplace.

Because of various shades of meaning, the different ways words are accepted in different environments, and the wide spectrum of euphemisms associated with even the simplest terms, there is no black and white when you talk to people you haven’t been with for too long, and our Kiwi experience is no exception.

We have here only five examples of how bewildered we get when we hear Kiwi-isms, despite the fact that we’ve been here more than three years, we talk to the natives every day of our lives, and we keep the exchange of words and phrases as simple as can be. Do any of these sound familiar to you ?

Your turn to shout – To be fair, everybody at work gets a chance to treat everyone to lunch / dinner, be it due to a birthday, a won bet at rugby, or a tax refund. But some blokes need to be reminded, and others conveniently forget its their turn to shell out the cash, and they need to be told, it’s your turn to shout, shout being the Kiwi word for buy everyone a free lunch or meal. Etymologically and euphemistically, there is little to connect the word with how we imagine buying a foodie treat for your friends and colleagues, and this is why we’re mystified as to why shout is used as such. When our bisor told us, “NOel, don’t bother bringing lunch tomorrow, Dave won big at the races and is shouting lunch for all of us,” we couldn’t make the connection between winning and shouting, but now we do. And we work up an appetite in the process.

Bloody crazy, bloody hard, or bloody good – This is less in used among Maoris and Kiwis than UK transplants and second generation Brits here. They seem to liberally use the term bloody in place of any and all adverbs when they run out of normal superlatives, especially the males in describing aspects of work, sports and females with superior physical attributes.

On Pinoy sensibilities, this naturally has unsettling and indelicate effects, given that the literal translation (madugo) conjures unsavory images totally unrelated to the supposedly positive and invigorating connotations of the said modifier.

[ NOte : a certain word in next item, represented by similar f-words is used in the demonstrative or ironic sense only and is not intended to offend or outrage.]

liberal use of the F-word – Very similar to previous item, for example the effin’ rain ruined the fishing, when are we gonna get some effin overtime, or how about those freaking Hurricanes ey? It is used to generate a variety of picturesque feelings and emotions, usually intense, about manly ( or even not-so-manly ) interests. It might also be used to convey mild anger or frustration, as in when the eff is that delivery truck coming, or what the eff is he doing in the toilet so long ???

Where we come from, the use of that word signifies three things : you’re spoiling for a fight, you’re extremely angry, or you are quite drunk. It took a bit of paradigm shifting to get accustomed to this, as we didn’t know whether to defend ourself, get into a frisky debate, or prepare some strong coffee or some sobering substance. Turns out that¬†we don’t need to do any of that as the typical Kiwi worker is bred with a tongue as salty as the nearby Cook Strait, and this quite ironically contrasts with his good nature and even termper.

You have to do it / boss sez do it – The surest way to rouse resistance and lip from the staff, in our experience, is to phrase the request as an order, even if in reality it IS one. This our Sri Lankan manager knows too well, and never fails to assign even the most important and basic tasks to lowest peons like ourself in the most courteous and disarming way.

It’s probably the most precious lesson he’s learned, something that’s still lost from time to time on our supervisors, who earn a lot of grief and B.S. even if they assign the most routine and elementary chores that the assignees would’ve ended up doing in the normal course of duties anyway. It’s even worse when the boss’s name is dropped, as in boss sez you should do this, or boss asked me to tell you to do that, when in fact the Big Guy had no idea. This is probably due to the fact that most Kiwis are wary of authority, love their independence and bristle at having to be told what they do all their professional lives.

F-off or bugger off – We fittingly thought of this last as it’s what our workmates love to say when the end of the workday draws near or a wearying shift is at hand. Time to bugger off, mate is both an amusing and heartfelt goodbye issued us by the person coming in to replace us on the next shift, Why aren’t you f-ing off yet, get out of here is the rough but friendly way of getting rid of us by others. Which all goes to show that the gruffest guys can still retain their good spirits and charm, using the code of machospeak and good-work-now-get-rest-for-tomorrow-is-another-day mentality.

Thanks for reading !


Eat + Pray + Love ( But Eat 1st )

Spit barbecue meat hanging on Avenue C in the ...

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[ NOte from NOel : not to take advantage of the halloweeny mood the last few days, but there is a distinct possibility that one or more of the items discussed below may gross you out, make you pass on lunch or dinner, depending on when the next meal is, or at least make you feel queasy. Thanks in advance for reading ! ]

Dear batchmates, brods, schoolmates, officemates, kabayan & friends :

THE WORST possible combination of traits conspire to condemn our Food IQ to the lowest percentile or decile ranking among the 45-year old male demographic. We eat almost anything placed on our plates, and in turn, even boiling an egg would be a culinary challenge for us.

In our dutiful daddy days ages ago, we could prepare simple dishes like sinigang, pritong GG and ginisang ___ ( fill blank with whatever canned meat available ), but beyond that was twilight zone or a no-fly zone for us, and the suplings knew better than to ask for anything creative. Couldn’t blame them, they had their entire lives ahead of them, and no sense in cutting it short just because the misguided dad tried too hard in the kitchen.

But we digress. In the last few days, we noticed a few things about eating habits, not just ours but among those who share our climate, color and language, that our temporary hosts find either quaint, strange or eye-poppingly eerie, depending on how exposed they are to Asian culture, which of course includes cuisine.

If not for their observations, we would not have taken a rhetorical step back and realized, oo nga ano, Pinoy nga naman ( yup, that’s the Pinoy, loosely translated ), there are things that we have accepted as normal as the sun rising and setting every day and yet would definitely raise eyebrows ( and sometimes goose pimples ) of those not familiar with Pinoy customs and practice :

By far the single aspect of our eating culture that causes the greatest consternation among our First World friends is the urban legend that Pinoys are connoisseurs (pardon the spelling if ever) of dog and cat meat, brought about by both sensationalist internet and the ADD-prone news cycle that gobbles up and spits out (pun intended) strange and oddball bits of news.

Our otherwise macho supervisor gets conflicted and crinkly-faced ( he will never admit that he’s grossed out ) whenever he remembers that Pinoys ( and other Asians, for that matter ) have no compunction about eating Man’s Best Friend and Puss in Boots. Conflicted because he doesn’t know which to do first: punch out the nearest Pinoy or Asian around (unfortunately, that’s us) or rush to the nearest toilet and hurl.

Crinkly faced because he wants to wax sarcastic about said culinary predisposition, but his nausea is in danger of cramping his style. Not even our earnest attempt to convince him that this otherwise barbaric practice is limited to a tiny fraction of the population and prevalent usually among those in our northern provinces (no offense intended Lakay, live and let live po) is enough to dissuade him from his self-righteous indignation.

It doesn’t help that where we are now ( and probably elsewhere in the 1st World ) pets are often considered members of the family, figuratively and literally, sharing bedspace and living cheek-by-jowl with their human masters.

The few times we remained unashamed of our country’s dog meat/cat meat eccentricities were when the same supervisor mocked us once too often : like when, seeing our spicy baon (packed lunch) one night, he asked if there was any piece of Brownie or Moning that we were savoring, whereupon we answered : not tonight boss, and just in case you’re wondering, YES we’ve tasted dog meat, and it wasn’t TOO bad. . .

We don’t think Mastah had much to eat the rest of the night.¬† ūüôā

Another food aspect that not just Pinoys but plenty Asians share is that in meat products , very little is wasted for the actual cooking, and you know what we mean when we say very little.

We once accompanied our Igorot ex-flatmate ( another Northern anecdote ) to the butcher’s shop prior to his sisig preparation. Admittedly, we hadn’t the slightest idea where the ingredients came from.

Turns out that pig’s heads, while a bit unsightly and gory, serve a dual purpose for the aforementioned specialty. Not being a popular portion of meat, they are relatively inexpensive ( NZ$3 a head ); however the cheeks are a fleshy and tasty component of sisig, albeit a bit time-consuming dish to create.

( We’re not sure if there’s a tangible connection, but it seemed to us that the higher the amount of alcohol consumption involved, the more indiscriminate the meat selection became, particularly if the issue was availability. Just guessing here. )

Don’t forget fish heads ( years back, Mother didn’t mind everyone else taking the rest of the fish, as long as she got the head ), intestines for chicharon ( cracklets ), “adidas” / chicken feet, a popular Chinese dimsum item, ears ( “tenga ng daga” ) and other unusual body parts which we’re sure are also eaten elsewhere in the world but are given more than their due attention in our corner of the jungle.

Undoubtedly, in our case the exotic cuisine has as much to do with economics and and home-grown remedies : when meat is in scarce supply ( and it usually is ) you learn to be creative and make do with what’s on the chopping block (tadtaran), and many of our potions and elixirs are supplemented by fluids and secretions from the animal world.

[ By the way, we hadn’t even thought of discussing these last juicy tidbits with Mastah, just wait till we get the chance.¬† ;)]

But back to our penchant for saving everything edible : highly debatable, but we save literally till the last possible moment left overs, takeaways and remnants of meals long past in the hope that we will (1) recapture the magic of spectacular cooking (2) conserve cooking energies for another day, and (3) pinch pretty pennies for a rainy day.

The only problem/s with this logic is that the magic of a tasty dish doesn’t necessarily translate to tasty magic the next day, week or month ( yikes ! ), the energy we preserve might be wasted in recovering from an upset stomach, and who can tell if the pennies we save won’t get swallowed by a mindless pig-out the minute we give way to a weak moment.

We confess that in wild, wanton days of youth, we had a relatively simpler rule when it came to devouring doubtful dated food : if it didn’t move, it was edible. ūüė¶¬†Many a time we could have saved ourselves from a tumultuous case of indigestion or food poisoning if only we were a bit more discerning when it came to questionable kakanin, discolored siopao or sticky rice ( that wasn’t supposed to be sticky in the first place ).

But when you’re young, you’re supposed to be doing stupid things. We just did a little more than our share.

Nevertheless, we still wrap up food, especially the lauriat kind, if it looks too good to waste and some house mates are coming home from night shift. Besides, if worse comes to worst, there’s always the next door (Caucasian) neighbor’s too-friendly pussycat, who recently developed a devoted preference for Pinoy cooking.

For all the yums and slurps of pinoy ulam (dishes), we can’t blame the pusang gala, who, not to worry, will always remain our dinner guest and not our dinner.

Thanks for reading !


Isang Linggong Pag-Ibig

Philippines - Eye / Mouth / Heart Nostalgia

Image by Jeff_Werner via Flickr


[ Note : just a stream-of-consciousness e-mail. Please excuse the candidness, and the spontaneity. ]

                                          Lunes .

“Hey NOWL, what’s Tey-galog ?”

[ Definitely a trick question ; knowing the asker, he’s already Googled and Wikipidiaed the term; still it’s a pleasant, if odd surprise that he’s asking about our language, or at least, one of them… ]

Back home, there’s no such thing as a national language like Maori or English in your parts, but if you’re looking for the nearest thing to a lingua franca anywhere in our Archipelago, Tagalog is the way to go.

“Hmmm. Okay, thanks for the info NOWL.”

[ Don’t think we’ll ever get used to being called Nowl, as in Nowl Leeming (a popular chain of appliance stores), but at least it’s better than Noelene or NOwl the Filipino, or Phil the Noel-pino, now leave me in peace to drink my well-deserved oxidant-banishing, and wrinkle-discouraging green tea… ]

As backgrounder, in itself it’s a wonder that he even thinks of asking us anything that doesn’t pertain to work, he’s straight-as-an-arrow, serious-as-serious-gets, and professional-as-can-be at work, so anything that distracts you from the mundane list of tasks for the next eight hours in the dead of night is a welcome digression.

Famous last words.

                                                    Martes .

“hey Nowl, just out of curiosity, have you got any idea how much a university education costs in your country relative to the standard of living and average wage, just off the top of your head ?”

Wow Koya, iba na mga tanong mo ha. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you were committing to pay for the education of someone back home, obviously someone a tad more important to you than the only other Pinoy you know, that’s ME of course . ūüôā

[ of course, we’re not that suspicious, and in the midst of doing three different things, we couldn’t give it more than a raised eyebrow and a hurried 2nd thought, but still… ]

Tuition, depending on the quality of education provided by the school and the degree course and curriculum, costs anywhere between 30,000 to a hundred thousand in Philippine pesos per term. That’s a relatively reasonable 1000 to 3000 in Kiwi dollars, but you have to realize that resources are more scarce back home, average wages are much more modest, and families are usually bigger, are you thinking of any school in particular (or anyone specific) ?

“Hmmm (again, that disturbingly non-chalant hmmm)… no, not really. what’s for lunch ?” . . .

                                                  Miyerkules .

Shows me a piece of paper. “Read this, NOWL.”

(I almost cringed and wanted to say I didn’t want to, but inevitability and morbid curiosity gets the better of NOWL.)


There was no one else in the building, but i whispered the translation, scared that anyone else would hear. (Smiles.)

I knew that, heh, heh heh (like a Cheshire cat). There’s another word that I failed to write, I need the translation and wanna know why it’s in the middle.”

(Sigh.) Okay, what’s the word?

(writes slowly) “D – I – N.”

Okay, your friend translates for you, gives you her answer, and then translates the same for you?

“Yup, I just wanna know why “din” is in the middle.”

Well, it would be inelegant if it were said anywhere else, and she probably already knows you have a Filipino friend, who’ll do the translation for you. And the interpretation.

[ Kinikilig itong lolo mo, NOel. ]


You know Boss ? In the two plus years I’ve been here, I’ve never seen you like this.


You look like you lack sleep, and you look like (shudder!) you’re bored with work.

“I guess I do. Been chatting with my Filipina friend three nights now…”

[ Shows me her pics, very pretty actually, a duskier version of Isabel Oly, in colegiala camouflage. ]

“Wants me to visit Manila straightaway, that’s why I’ve been picking your brain the past three days. Also wants me to see her family.”

Inay ko po.

Hey boss, aren’t you rushing things a bit? It’s just not like you to uhm, rush into things like this.

“For sure. Am not gonna be rushed into doing things. But let me tell you NOWL, she’s smart, sez she’s a simple Filipina girl, and from what I can tell, she’s not materialistic.”

[ Well, what can I say ? What would YOU say? ]

Barely audible sigh .


“Say Nowl, are there flights out to Manila from here that don’t pass through Sydney or Melbourne?”

Well boss, that’s the idea. Flights are cheap cuz there are so many passengers bound for Manila picked up from either of those cities. Sometimes both.

“You mean, besides the Filipinos IN HERE, there are lots more in Aussie?”

(Duh.) Actually everywhere. Say, are you really serious about going to the Philippines ? It’s just not sightseeing and beaches you’re after, yup?

(Actually I already know what, or who the reason is, I just can’t believe it’s reason enough for him to up and go.)

“Well I HAVE been planning to go on a long holiday, and you know the weather here can be quite frustrating. ( Pauses ). I just don’t know why she’s insisting that I visit her December.”

Whoa. Just my humble opinion Mastah, but unless you’re from there, you DON’T want to travel to the Islands Christmas season. And don’t ask why. Just too iffy, and too many unknowns. And it’s probably the most chaotic time of the year.

“Most chaotic compared to what ?”

Most chaotic compared to ANYWHERE YOU’VE BEEN.

[ Looks taken aback, but quickly recovers. ] “You’re not discouraging me from visiting your own country, are you?”

(I roll my eyes.) I’m not. Just… as you say, don’t rush into this, boss.

(Smiles a self-assured smile). I won’t be (rushed). You know me better than that, Nowl.

[Actually, I don’t. Not after the last few days.]

** ** ** **

Pardon our cynicism, but compressing my dozens of questions into three : Did Mastah know the first rule of online dating / chatting, which is NEVER to send, or even promise to send money, at least until you’ve gotten to know someone considerably longer than a week?

Second : Has Mastah at least taken the precaution of using either the webcam or Skype (or similar telephony) to see or hear if the person is indeed the one in the obviously flattering pictures?

This third is actually the hardest : Is Mastah naive enough to believe that he is the only one his friend is chatting with?

These are the Final Jeopardy questions we want to ask Mastah before the end of the Isang Linggong Pag-ibig. Cross our heart and hope to die, we really, really want to ask him.

But don’t bet on it.

Thanks for reading !


Me No Speak Americano (anles da accent Pilipino)

Manny Pacquiao gracing the TIME Asia Magazine ...

Image via Wikipedia

[ Note from NOel : Rants and raves below are limited¬†to personal NZ experience, so we sneakily absolve ourselves from liability on hearsay and 2nd hand info, pls be advised … concern and sympathy to all those affected by the bomb throwing right after the last Bar exam at DLSU Sunday back home. ]
Dear batchmates, kabayan, officemates and friends :
ON THE SURFACE, there’s not much that connects Lea Salonga‘s star turn¬†in Miss Saigon, Manny Pacquiao‘s Nothing’s Gonna Change My Love For You¬†on the American¬†Jimmy Kimmel talk show, and lately, the goose-pimply rendition of Listen by Charice Pempengco on Glee and other YouTube virals.
Not much, except their canny and strategic use of English, to varying degrees of gigil, whenever displaying and/or talking about their considerable (artistic and athletic) talent to the rest of the world. 
Each has done it in his/her own way.  Where Lea and Charice have wowed audiences with the perfect pronunciation and accent, matching anything their predecessors and peers have done, Manny has used a Pinoy accent that is unique and something only he can pull off.  His accent is his own, and the media loves every minute hearing it.
The fact is, Pinoys are able to show off their talents on a worldwide stage, using English with charm and class. 
But on¬†balance, and basing on our own experience picked up in White Man’s Land, we daresay : don’t lose the Pinoy accent.
Meaning, for all the migrant wannabes, Pinoy expats and student visa holders out there, our accent is every bit as palatable as the American, British or Australian versions.
It’s a simplistic comparison, but just listen to Charice P or the Pacman,or even the various beauty queens who reached the money stage in their respective competitions: What is the common theme in their speech?
Well, besides the fact that they exude confidence and humility at the same time, display an endearingly naive, aw-shucks and unassuming attitude, very few try to use or affect an American twang or BBC brogue.

Charice P entertaining Pinoys in the US

[No knock on Lea’s acquired accent, but if¬†the British accent was what she felt comfortable using, kudos to her and her talent to do as the Romans do. ¬†]
It’s hard to describe, but our accent is a combination of literal pronounciation, Filipinisms, and a particular way of placing accents on syllables, phrases and sentences that can be alternately described as charming and maddening, disorienting and enlightening.
Anglophiles all over the world, in their respective forms of English, like to glide over words and phrases as part of everyday usage, and listeners who hear the first parts of such figures of speech perceive the rest without waiting to hear the same.
What’s up with you is shortened to Wazzup, and finally to zup, in some places, and this is accepted as normal speech.¬† Filipinos like me are still comfortable with Hello, how are you, and though reminiscent of the previous century, still remains pleasing to the ear of our workmates.¬† Or at least, that’s what they tell us.
Another example is common expressions of a local populace like Cheers, ta, g’day, no worries which on the whole are used awkwardly by newcomers like us, and this awkwardness is immediately picked up by the locals.
Our end :¬† Let’s face it, initially we feel stupid and at worst, “trying hard” by mirroring their favorite and well-loved phrases.¬† We also never get used to the feeling that we’re using such phrases in the wrong way or situation.¬† The only consolation is with time and practice, the effect becomes less hilarious and more normal sounding, paving the way for us sounding like ordinary Kiwi blokes.
Their end¬†: Take your pick, depending on their media orientation ( TV, movies or sports ) we either sound like Manny P, Jacky Chan or some Asian contestant on a copycat talent show, but at the same time they get the idea that we’re trying to be like them, or at least being agreeable and getting along with them.¬† The net result is¬†hopefully half the time we understand each other, and we don’t need to (1) ¬†rely on sign language,¬†(2) create a new meaning altogether, or (3) lead us to acceptance by¬†our hosts although this last¬†outcome is the unlikeliest.
Specifically, phrases like¬†pickupapiefo’ya?, watchsomefootyondatelly are just two examples of some tricky phrases that might be worthwhile to learn, and there are plenty more, believe you me.
Our end¬†: Jibberish and gobbledygook, at the outset, because although we know what we are saying, we don’t know if they pick it up; in fact we don’t even know if fellow¬†Pinoys get what we are saying, and worse, will even misinterpret us and tell our foreign masters we are suffering from a rare form of tropical disease.
Their end : Seriously, our workmates will hear snatches and portions of ideas that seem to make sense and for the meantime try to make sense of what they think is intelligent speech.¬† They might even realize that their oral contractions and abbreviations have been confusing us for some time now (Macca’s for McDonalds, rejo for registration, or telly for television, among many others), and in a benevolent form of reverse psychology, convince us that No, mate, if ya hear us talkin that way, it’s not proper English, forget it, OK?
VOWELS & CONSONANTS, PLOSIVES & SIBILANTS.  On the whole, Pinoys are a textual, literal bunch.  We read out through our mouths (and nostrils) what the latter are told by the eyes, with the brain intervening only incidentally.  Based on what we are told from early childhood, vowels are either short or long, consonants are either in-your-face or invisible, and combinations of sounds are only there for spelling purposes, or some long-forgotten rule.  On the other hand, almost every American vowel sound is a schwa, each consonant has at least two or three variants, and plosives and sibilants have an infinite variety.
We like to make fun of Manny P (and for¬†the previous generation), Elizabeth Ramsey and Yoyoy Villame when they consciously or otherwise exaggerate their Visayan accent, but in truth we don’t sound much different to our foreign listeners.¬† Reason : we don’t make such a great distinction betwen our short and long a’s, e’s and i’s.¬†
The irony is Kiwis do the same with their own vowels (pin/pen, lift/left, dintist/dentist), often confusing their Aussie counterparts as well.¬† So it’s not like they can’t relate to our linguistic quirks and phenomena.
               **               **               **               **                **
It’s surprisingly overlooked, but we are probably the 2nd most Westernized nation (after Japan) in the Far East, and this is borne out by our affinity with and ease with English.¬† Whether or¬†not we speak it with a quaint¬†accent is largely superficial, as long as it gets the job done.¬†
However, the way we adjust to our foreign hosts, our adaptability and our social skills are what’s equally crucial to our lives overseas.¬† Endearing ourselves to our newfound friends via a combination of our accent and all others will go a long way towards becoming citizens of the world.
Thanks for reading !

Salute to Bro / Bad Habits of a Temporary Migrant

Dear batchmates, kabayan and friends :

THIS BLACK SATURDAY, we pause from our migrant tales, memory-scouring and daddy anecdotes to salute a giant on our personal landscape, a model to emulate ( a left-handed compliment considering how weird we turned out , but nevertheless ), someone who has always loomed large in the standard and alternate realities of our universe.

He’s no math wizard but crunches numbers like a strongman; doesn’t own a glib tongue but always ends a negotiation leaving everybody happy; never butters up his criticism but was / is a consummate motivator of every sort of worker under his wing.

In short, he possesses the qualities of a captain of industry, someone who you would want to navigate your business toward the black bottom line, or man your frontline whenever dealing with client, supplier, employee or even competitor.

Our brother Tim has filled every role, and has handled almost every kind of situation there is.

But the undiluted wonder of it all is that he does everything under the radar, as an understatement, effortlessly, and with as little attention to himself as possible. He seems to live by the philosophies of management by remote, and management by invisibility.

In childhood, adolescence and early adulthood, he left us lasting impressions that he would succeed in whatever he tried doing, whether it was playing tournament-level chess, writing for the school paper, starting up his own mobile party logistics business, or just anything else his entrepreneurial mind could fancy.

His finishing school a term early, with double degrees and dean’s list kudos almost throughout his stint at campus belied a healthy aptitude for fun and partying, but this never stopped him from hitting the ground running, reaching senior management within 18 months from joining his first employer.

He has never failed to share both his blessings and knowledge gained with his family and friends, and this has returned to him tenfold. In our parents’ management committee of two, he is always consulted as the unofficial third member, and his counsel is valued by brother, nephew, niece and cousin, actually every member of the clan.

SJCS 76er, DLSU diehard, media industry whiz, management guru, KTV champ, and marketing genius. Among your many titles, we are proud to call you Kuya Tim.

Belated happy birthday, Bro !

** ** ** **

There are bad habits, and there are bad habits. We’ve come up with a short list of faux pas we’re guilty of during a bad day, and sometimes even a good day, that we’re almost sure makes the hosts here in our temporary adopted land uneasy and quite unsure of whether or not we’re grateful that we’re their guests.

Of course, we are, grateful we mean, but the bad habits are there by force of habit, our rush to do the practical instead of the correct, and probably most important, our insistence that unconsciously or not, there are Asian / Pinoy ways of doing things that die hard.

This is by no means a final list, there will continue to be additions, the sad thing is that everytime we update this list, we will have to include the original items :

 Bad Habit Number 1 : Saying yes before we completely understand the speaker . By far ( and so far ), this is the worst bad habit we can think of, and the potential for complications hitting the fan ( just substitute your favorite @#$% ) is doubled if this happens at work. Admittedly Pinoys, whenever choosing between I beg your pardon and nodding assent to words spoken a gear too fast, with accent a little too thick and idioms a tad too quaint, just wing it: umoo ka na lang.

Not only does this lead to misunderstandings and impressions that we are dull beyond comprehension, it sometimes leads to unintended and unfortunate consequences.

Our earliest days at work many months ago, we were told by bisor : open all the windows if you want, but NIVAH leave that door open. Naturally, we didn’t have a clue who or what the heck nivah was, but the first thing we did was to open the door. How could we know that nivah was locally how u say NEVER and we did the opposite of what he told us. Automatic Yup? Never, or Nivah again.

¬†Bad Habit Number 2 : Making brainless and impromptu comments on some of our hosts’ hygiene or lack of same. Let’s face it, our cultural differences preclude us from thinking our hosts’ hygienic practices are normal or a natural way of adapting to the climate. No matter where we are, in whatever clime, we will always do the same things we did back home.

This however doesn’t give us the right to make comments on how they are. So what if they shower 2 to 3 times a week? So what if they don’t change clothes everyday? And what of it, if they use deodorant only when the mood strikes? (Note: No sarcasm intended.)

We’re not generalizing, but odds are about even, especially the more south your latitude is. It just isn’t a priority to keep yourself smelling good all the time, and we’re just being frank here. With this realization, all the more probably should we be sensitive to the cultural divide and live and let live, but certainly not do as the Romans do, we’re sure you get our drift.

Bad Habit Number 3 : Not laughing automatically and heartily at whatever jokes made by the host/s. The situation is similar to those contemplated in BH #1 but the outcome or expected behavior is markedly different. We’re NOT expected to ask why the punchline is so, and anyway if you bother to find out the humor / irony in the joke, you most likely will laugh ( kahit mababaw ), so it’s usually advisable to just go ahead a have a loud bwahaha. Even if you’re not exactly sure why.

The alternative, as if you didn’t know, is to sit around bewildered while everyone else is making hee-hee-hee and enjoying a good laugh. Soon enough, someone will notice that you’re not getting it, and while a kind soul will try to explain the humor behind the gag, the rest of the room will be thinking, boy these Asians really don’t have a sense of humor. When we actually just think they’re corny. So, tumawa ka na lang kabayan.

** ** ** **

What if the shoe was on the other foot ? (1) Threaten to nuke Puerto Rico whenever it attempts to secede, (2) pulverize the sovereign rights of a former colony like the Philippines, just for kicks ; (3) play with the Euro and expect that the dollar be treated as a sacred commodity; (4) sit on the UN Security Council despite trading with rogue states, and (5) speeding up the execution of thousands of condemned criminals in Texas, California and other states where execution is still legal.

Of course, the Evil Empire ( Note: sarcasm intended ) wouldn’t do these unthinkables. And if they did, like maybe Number 4 above, there would be hell to pay, before the international media and community of nations.

So why does everyone look the other way and ignore the elephant in the room when China does the exact same things?

Every now and then, it makes it clear that “dire consequences” will be met by Taiwan should it pursue anything other than the One China policy. Its Tibet policy has worsened, rather than improved, despite the mediation by third parties. It openly dumps gazillions of greenbacks on the money market daily to suit whatever its policy objective happens to be on any particular day, and doesn’t even bother to hide such fact.

And the PROC has forever sat on the fence while both Iran and North Korea play nuclear brinksmanship with the rest of the world. Beijing won’t even deny that first, billions of barrels of oil are sent from Iran to China every year, and, contrary to Chinese interests, chaos in a beaten North Korea will mean mass migration across the border to guess where? Just a few kilometers from the Forbidden City. And let’s not forget the nameless thousands executed yearly in China, more than the rest of the world combined.

Despite the inexorable march towards a Chinese Century, it’s not a great time for those with Chinese blood and heritage to hold their heads high.

It’s not a perfect world, but let’s thank Providence for the gift of democracy, and the free air we breathe.

Was it Dr Jose Rizal who said there are no tyrants where there are no slaves ?

Happy Easter everyone!


Indianero Jones & The Greatest of the English Crusades

( originally written 10th October 2009 ) 
Dear batchmates, schoolmates, kabayan and officemates :
IN A WAY PROBABLY not anticipated by its original users, the English language has filtered down into every nook and cranny of this 3rd Rock From The Sun.
At the Foodcourt with our Cryptic Crossword, NYTimes Crossword & Sudoku (& other assorted timewasters) we see Brazilian and Argentine amigos (Spanish vs Portuguese speakers) sharing bread but not nearly a common tongue; hear Slovenians, Croatians, Bosnians & Montenegrin, chattering about muffins, tea and the Adriatic coast (a feature all 4 nations share), but not in their respective languages; and finally, wrapped in a sickly-sweet PDA (public display of affection), isang magsyotang singkit na Tsino at Hapon, who genetically geographically and historically are closer than kissing cousins, even share more than a few cultural markers (calligraphy, religion, rosy-white makeup prized throughout history) but can’t understand each other’s dialect . . .
Guess how all these strange bedfellows communicate with each other?
It’s not just an overseas phenomenon : When we see an Ilocano, Ifugao, Ibanag and Igorot together (this is not the start of a joke ha) the usual currency of palaver is Ilokano, but only because the other ethnic groups grudgingly accept the first-among-equals status of the former.¬† Otherwise the common language is ang wikang Ingles.
And some of the best exchanges back home can be heard among Cebuanos, Ilonggos, Chabacanos and Kinaray-a’s who speed up the conversation among themselves by just speaking a common medium. We’ll give you just one guess as to what it is, and today’s clue : it’s NOT Tagalog.
Given the reach and completeness of the Queen’s English, which was hurled across the horizon of history with the (naval) advance of the British Empire, extended with trade and mass media via the United States of Obama and broadened beyond the broad spectrum of consciousness via the World Wide Web, it’s no big surprise that English is probably the
one voice among our Babel of tongues that can be heard, understood and responded to in every country anywhere on Earth (just like Visa or MasterCard? ).
The runners-up presented formidable opposition but in the end fell just a tad short : Chinese-Mandarin, although aided by the clever Pinyin system, doesn’t have the support of the Roman Alphabet for easy conversion, and Spanish, while it enjoys the benefit of the common alphabet used by the Indo-European family of languages,and widespread use across 4 continents around the globe, does not have the universality and facility of use in both speech and text that English possesses.
Whereas before English speakers demanded as a threshold requirement to communication the condition of non-native speakers (those who weren’t born to it) knowing and speaking¬† the language the way only they do, these days a kinder, gentler English ear demands only that we know the rudiments of the language and are able to express ourselves in a basic and practical fashion.
Witness the way Manny Pacquiao captured the hearts of US media right after the Hatton fight, when he won them over with just a few English sentences : gud ibning ibribadi, hop ibriwan had a gud time, just doing my jab guys (left or right? ) en nating personal. (YouTube search : Manny Pacquiao vs Ricky Hatton Post Fight Conference)
In fact, it is now a badge of reverse chic to speak the lingua franca in our charming little accent without regard to proper treatment of sibilants and plosives as well as the “proper” schwa or rounding out of various vowel sounds.
It has also been conceded by many in the literary world that both British & American “native” writers no longer hold the monopoly of being the best writers in English, as proven by wordsmiths like Salman Rushdie, V.I. Naipaul and Haruki Murakami.
Just like the hard currency of gold and commodities, the universal medium of communication has been democratized, socialized and even subsidized.  Anything short of that, and chaos reigns.
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Does anyone remember the various English Campaigns all throughout our elementary years, using a combination of approaches to mold us into obedient little English speakers : one peso per word of non-English spoken; secret marshalls to check those wayward Taglish rebels (yes, everyone spying on everyone else), and stars to the perfect English champions ?
Well, we first bristled like indignant thoroughbreds bucking our riders. Taglish forever, we said, encouraging our Fukien brothers and sisters as well, and whoever needed to speak pure English anyway ?  Not Dr Jose Rizal, not Dolphy, NOT Erap, and certainly not Bruce Lee.
Gradually though, we realized the long term value of maintaining the fluidity of our English, of making believe, and finally believing, that we could speak with the best of the world when it came to English.  THIS was the true success of the English Crusades.
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Long before we admitted such status to our kids, their keen perceptiveness and pure intuitive powers discerned it : we were by far the underachieving brown sheep (wag naman black) among our siblings: this was to be the intergenerational chip on their shoulders that burdened them not only before the eyes of their better-dressed cousins, but also before the stoic eyes of their grandparents, our ageless evaluators.
We rationalized the situation, taking advantage of their (thankfully) sharp minds and big heart : true, you may not enjoy their advantages and their sophistication.  But master the skill of articulating yourselves, preferably in English, and you can keep up with them toe-to-toe, neck-and-neck and make the best of your situation.
This was how we learned that of the great motivators, Pride hath no peer.¬† Nicole not only sought self-improvement via speaking and listening English, she also tried her hand at basic Mandarin via Meteor Garden and F4, no mean feat for someone who never attended Hogwarts or any other Chinese school. (We admit this impressed the pants off a lot of dad’s relatives )
Brent took the time to better himself with English not just through self-help language websites, but also pored through his Ate’s College English textbook.¬† We were humbled by their effort, paying off as it did these days with them holding their own against our Xavierian nephews back home and Kiwi nieces from the other side of the fence.
Whatever school and from whichever background they hail, it would be hard for any parent not to be proud of children like these.
English-wise, though, we will always be partial : Hogwarts pa rin.
Thanks for sharing your time and thanks for the memories.
Your Loyal Batchmate / Schoolmate / Kabayan / Officemate